How interactional needs shape information structure: An analysis of the discourse functions of topicalization in three L2 varieties of English

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Topicalization refers to the sentence-initial placement of constituents other than the subject (see, e.g., Lambrecht 1994; Birner & Ward 2009) and has recently gained more attention in particular with regard to its frequency, forms, and functions in L2 and learner varieties of English (cf. Lange 2012; Winkle 2015; Leuckert 2017). Specific interactional needs, such as the intention of establishing topic continuity in the discourse, may motivate speakers to deviate from the canonical SVX pattern of English sentences. Furthermore, speakers may choose to emphasize or contrast information which has not previously been mentioned in the discourse. Therefore, this paper argues that cognitive, pragmatic, emotiveaffective, and social factors (cf. Schmid 2016) all play an important role for topicalization, but certain communicative goals may lead to speakers ignoring the cognitive status of information by topicalizing brand-new or unused information. Furthermore, it is shown in this paper that topicalized constituents which serve to create topic continuity (and are, therefore, highly salient in the discourse) tend to persist longer in the subsequent discourse than topicalized constituents which serve other discourse functions.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalYearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • Topikalisierung, Kognitive Linguistik, World Englishes